iWant: AirPlay Streaming from iOS Devices to Macs

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AirPlay is very cool. You can stream from a Mac to various devices, such as an Apple TV, or to standalone AirPlay-compatible speakers. You can stream from an iOS device to an Apple TV or to standalone AirPlay speakers. But one thing I’d like, which currently isn’t possible, is to stream from an iOS device to a Mac.

The reason for this is, in my case, to play podcasts that are on an app on my iPhone, and not on my Mac, through my Mac and its speakers. There could be many other uses, such as playing someone’s music on your Mac when they’re visiting, or to view an iPad screen on a Mac while playing a game. You can do both of these to an Apple TV, so it shouldn’t be hard to do them to a Mac as well.

I wouldn’t use this feature a lot, but trying out Marco Arment’s new Overcast podcast app, with its great smart speed and voice boost features, I realized that, when I listen to podcasts in my office, I’d rather use that app than iTunes. So I’d like to just stream them to my Mac. The alternative is to connect an AirPort Express to my stereo, but that’s expensive for just streaming occasionally.

But you may even want to stream something from one Mac to another; again, since you can do this to an Apple TV, it should be trivial to do it on a Mac.

Update: I was reminded by a few friends that there are third-party apps that can act as AirPlay receivers on a Mac. I have one, X-Mirage, which I got in an app bundle, but never used. I’ll try it out.

It Was Thirty Years Ago Today…

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Thirty years ago today, Steve Jobs took the stage to present what would be come a revolutionary new computer: the Macintosh. It had windows and icons, it had graphics instead of just commands that you typed to a sterile environment.

And look where we’ve gone…

BevBw1JCUAAx6CD.jpg     mac_pro_new.jpg

(The two images above are roughly to scale.)

See Apple’s Thirty Years of Mac page for a complete timeline of the history of the Mac.

Beware New Phishing Emails Targeting iTunes Store Users

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Phishing emails are nothing new. You probably get them from people pretending to be banks, utility companies, delivery companies, stores and more. But phishing emails pretending to be from Apple aren’t that common.

I got one today; and it’s the first time I’ve seen this one. It tells me that my “iTunes ID happens to expire in less than 48H.”


First, there’s no such thing as an “iTunes ID;” it’s an Apple ID. Second, they never expire. You can notice, if you’re a native English speaker, that the grammar is clunky: “happens to expire,” “It is imperative to conduct an audit of your information is present,” and so on.

Apple will never send an email like this. To be sure, hover your cursor over the link – that says “Check Now” in this email – and you’ll see where the link is going. (I’ve blurred part of the domain name of the unfortunate company whose web site was compromised.)


So what happens if you do click that link? It goes to a web page on a compromised server which redirects to a very long domain which almost looks like it could be real, because it begins with (I’ve obfuscated the actual domain in the URL, and removed some of the many seemingly random characters in the middle): [...]

That server is currently not responding; presumably because so many people clicked links in these emails.

What the cyber-criminals are trying to do is grab your Apple ID and password. With it, they can purchase stuff from the iTunes Store, at least until they hit the limit of your credit card, or your account balance if you don’t have a card linked to the iTunes Store account. What good would it be for them to buy things from the iTunes Store? Most likely, they’ll buy apps made by certain companies who have paid them to conduct this fraud. So those companies will get sales (minus Apple’s 30% cut), and you’ll get scammed.

But with that password they can also access your iCloud email (if you use iCloud for email), and other data.

Be smart; think carefully when you get emails like this.

Why Apple Won’t Make a Mac mini / Apple TV Hybrid

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Karen Haslam wrote an interesting article over at Macworld UK, discussing the next refresh to the Mac mini. Karen suggests that Apple might make a Mac mini the same size as an Apple TV. “Even better, how about a Mac mini that was also an Apple TV!”

I have to disagree; I don’t think Apple will ever do that. First, I doubt they could fit everything they need for a Mac mini inside the Apple TV’s current form factor. (However, if you remember the early Apple TV which contained a hard disk, it was nearly the size of a Mac mini.) It would need a faster processor, more power, a real video card (it currently outputs video via HDMI, which is rendered on a TV set), more RAM, and lots of other hardware features.

As for making a Mac mini that is also an Apple TV, there’s one big reason why they won’t do that: the Apple TV is designed as a bridge, not as a standalone unit (which was the case of the first versions). If they were to make the Apple TV a full-blown computer, it would be too expensive. The current price of the Apple TV – $100/£89 – makes it an inexpensive add-on to a home entertainment system. It works with both Macs and PCs, and doesn’t require anything much other than iTunes on the computer hosting the content. You can even use one without connecting it to a computer, just for streaming content from the iTunes Store.


However, I wouldn’t be surprised if, one day, Apple brought back its Front Row software, which essentially duplicated what the Apple TV can do on a Mac. If they did, then you could run it on a Mac mini connected directly to your AV receiver and TV. But it’s likely that Apple won’t go that route; I’m more inclined to expect a future version of the Apple TV with more apps, and even an app store, where you can buy subscriptions to networks or series, and even games.

The brilliance of the Apple TV is the fact that it’s not a computer; that it’s a bridge between a computer and a TV. This means that it’s easy to upgrade, cheap to buy, and easy to replace. I can’t see Apple changing that concept any time soon.

Witch: A Great Window Switcher for Mac

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I got a copy of Many Tricks’ $19 Witch today. It’s a window switcher for Mac OS X. Now this might need a bit of explanation. You probably know that you can press Command-Tab to switch applications, but you can’t choose which window – if an application has multiple windows – you’ll go to. Witch solves that problem, displaying a list of applications and their windows. You can set it to work with the Command-Tab shortcut (which is new in this version), or you can save Command-Tab for application switching and use a different shortcut for Witch.

If you look at the example above, that’s what Witch shows on my screen right now. You can see that there are two Finder windows open, and several other applications, each with a single window. By pressing Command-Tab, then pressing Tab several times, I can cycle through all those windows, and choose the one I want to bring to the front. I can also press H to hide a window, Q to quit an application, M to minimize a window, and more.

Witch is a great program that could be a bit better. There are a lot of options; a bit too many for my taste. It’s a bit daunting to set it up, if you want more than basic functionality. But you can customize the appearance, choosing font size, width of its bezel window, colors and more.

There are some quirks with Spaces. If you have several spaces set up, Witch can see the applications in those that are not visible, but not windows. So, in the above example, you see arrows next to some windows; that’s the symbol to show windows that are hidden, which also show up when windows are in other spaces. The developer told me that handling windows in spaces is complex, but that they hope to solve the issue soon.

If you work with a lot of applications, and switch a lot, Witch is for you. The ability to switch to a specific window saves a lot of time, and the control you get, from the keyboard, of applications, their windows, and their visibility is great. It make take a while to get used to the change from Command-Tab switching among applications to that of windows, but I’m already finding it a wonderful tool to streamline my work.